While almost all people you’ll meet have a favorite game, many haven’t ever played a game where there’s no competition between players. In fact, the extent of gaming experience for many families stops after Uno, Monopoly, or Scrabble. Therefore, if you have met someone who has played a cooperative game it was usually once at a party or it’s been a title just for toddlers and preschoolers. There are many cooperative board games for kids, teens and adults that are on the market as well! And they’re great for more than just parties.
So what is a cooperative game?
Just like it sounds, they are games that require everyone to work together. This means that there is no individual winner, but either everyone is victorious or similarly, everyone in the game may lose.
This type of game builds teamwork and cooperation. Instead of working against each other, it helps put the competition on solving the problem — giving it a whole other dimension of strategizing.
Board games that will enhance game night or classroom cooperation.
The first time I heard about cooperative board games, I wasn’t too enthusiastic because why would I want to spend my time playing a game where there was no true winner? Or where I had to rely on everyone else to make sure we all won?
Over time I have learned not just to appreciate cooperative games to help teach my children that winning and losing isn’t everything. And thinking back to my time in the classroom, it would have been great to introduce it as a team-building strategy.
Cooperative games still take planning and there is still strategy! But they are one of the only activities of its type to promote teamwork or to support the give-an-take dynamic kids need as a life skill.
As W. Patterson once said, “Bear in mind three essential qualities in all games of intellect:– Never to show selfishness or to wound the feelings of your adversary. To be modest with a good game. To lose without ill-temper, and to win without bragging.” And cooperative games are one element to help teach these life skills.
Choosing the right cooperative game
Choosing a cooperative game will help build teamwork skills and family communication…because even if everyone loses, there is camaraderie in playing and even in talking out what went wrong or how to better work together next time.
And debriefing a game, even one lost, is sometimes just as powerful of a learning tool as the game play itself.
The best cooperative games for multiple ages
Our top cooperative board game pick is Pandemic. It’s a great game that even game-averse people tend to gravitate towards. While it might be a little advanced for kids under the age of 8, it’s still possible. And because it’s cooperative, everyone is working as a team anyway! It’s a wonderful way to talk about spread of disease, globalization, and vitality.
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters – a great one to build in some family or classroom unity. You have to work as a team. You can’t let the kids focus on only their goals in order to win. Therefore they must be paying attention to everyone’s needs too.
Castle Panic – This one could be a good addition for castle or medieval unit and can even be used as a solitaire game outside of playing together. This could be called a “gateway game” by some because it intrigues and excites most players. Plus it has expansion packs!
Forbidden Island – A great game where everyone must escape with the treasure before the island goes under water. We play this with our neighbors and our kids and it’s fun! Each person has their own role and ability to make the player work together in unison. It could be used to talk about jobs, about rising water levels, or even while exploring texts like Indiana Jones.
Once you get to a point where maybe it’s too easy or you want to switch it up a bit, there’s also Forbidden Desert and recently they added another game to the series called Forbidden Sky.
Wildcraft – this is a fun and practical game because it also teaches kids about plants and their beneficial properties! Definitely different than your average game and something that could come in handy if you happen to be a family that likes to camp, hike, or otherwise go into the wilderness.
2 player cooperative board games
Sometimes having a few options for just two people is also nice. My husband and I like to have in-home date nights with 2 player games, but they would also work well to do two teams in a classroom or just two people could play one when their work is done.
Recently we played 7 Wonders Duel and it would be a fantastic option for kids 6th grade and older studying world history.
- Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
- Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
- Hanabi (plus this one is a card game so it travels well)
- Codenames: Duet
Cooperative game list for younger children
My favorite cooperative board game for a toddler is Busytown. It’s a giant 6-foot long board and little kids love that. In fact they’re in awe of it while spreading it out. It teaches so many skills and has substantial educational value. But a close runner-up is Max the Cat, followed by Sunny Day Pond for the earliest of gamers. In general Peaceable Kingdom has some amazing cooperative games for toddlers and preschoolers.
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Recently we also got Outfoxed at the recommendation of a friend and it’s a really wonderful game that even adults seem to truly enjoy.
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